I became a Pokémon trainer in 1998. I’ve waged hundreds of battles, traversed five different regions, and even caught 'em all. Now, with the recent release of Pokémon Black and Pokémon White I'm looking forward to doing it all again. At 27 years old, I feel like I've done everything in these games, but I’m still not tired of them…and I don’t think I ever will be.
I started off with the cartoon, but it wasn’t until I tried a bit of Pokémon Blue that the claws of that giant turtle really sank in. The game was fantastic: How could you not be excited by 150 different creatures, a complex system of rock-paper-scissors, and some of the most solid role-playing-game mechanics ever? I took my Game Boy with me everywhere, to the point where I was even neglecting my formerly beloved home consoles to make my team of pixelated pocket monsters stronger.
Not surprisingly, my love for Pokémon didn’t end there; I started buying the cards, and when Burger King had toys to promote the new movie, I ate so many kids’ meals that I ended up getting food poisoning. Fortunately, I discovered you could just buy the toys without the little cheeseburger, which saved my stomach (and colon) a lot of distress and discomfort.
Now, after much anticipation, Nintendo has finally released the fifth generation of Pokémon games. Black and White have better graphics, new monsters, a brand-new world to explore, and (while the average fan may not realize it) quite a bit of depth.
Even though the formula of this series has always seemed simple on the surface, you'll discover a lot of different levels of strategy when you get into the deeper mechanics. In fact, that’s one of the great things about Pokémon: the experience can be as casual or as hardcore as you want it to be.
You could just pick six Pokémon and go through the story, but from there you can go further and try tactics like EV training, which is when you only battle against specific kinds of Pokémon to grow the stats of your own a certain way. When you build your team, you can choose all attackers, or you can pick some that cause status effects and use them for defensive or healing roles. There are an infinite number of possibilities for raising your team, and because of that, that particular group will always be uniquely yours.
That Pokéwalker lets you train your monsters while walking, and I wore mine like a badge of honor.
So why do I still love Pokémon even though I’m now a bit older than the target audience? It’s because these games have a knack for exciting that part of me that will never grow up. They have a sense of exploration and adventure that’s very uncommon these days, and in the same way that some people will always love Star Wars, the series resonates with my childhood dreams of gallivanting off on some grand adventure.
When I play Pokémon against another person, it gives me a feeling that I don’t get from any other competitive game. It’s not about reflexes or button combos. It’s about all of the work you put into your team against all of the work your opponent puts into his. It’s about mind just as much as it is about skill, and that’s rare for most multiplayer experiences.
Do I think about this all a little too deeply? Probably…but as we get older and our responsibilities start to outweigh our free time, we all need something to take us back to that age when fun was always our top priority. Pokémon is the perfect blend of strategy for my adult mind and simple fun for the kid in me.
So who cares if I'm a little old for Pokémon now? I’m always ready for another adventure.